Tue, Mar 09, 2010 - Page 8 News List

Don’t block road to a sustainable Taiwan

By Liu Chung-ming 柳中明

In just 100 days, the world has witnessed a series of devastating earthquakes. The scale of destruction and the death toll have been horrifying. In contrast, although the earthquake that struck Jiasian Village (甲仙), Kaohsiung County, was more powerful than the great Baihe earthquake a century ago and population density today is much higher, there was very little serious damage.

For years Taiwan has invested heavily in earthquake-resistant buildings and made a concerted effort to ensure that residents know how to react in the event of an earthquake. These measures have had a positive effect.

Unexpected disasters are a part of life in Taiwan, but such adjustments have made it possible to find sustainable ways of living.

If we want future generations to remain in Taiwan, ways must be found to minimize damage and ensure rapid recovery when disaster strikes.

Over the past 200 days, news has poured in of disasters caused by global climatic anomalies. In today’s world it often seems that climate records that have lasted 50 or 100 years are just there to be broken. Nevertheless, it is fortunate that the occurrence of such unusual climate conditions is dependent on certain atmospheric conditions, and we should be thankful it is only southern Taiwan that faces the constant threat of devastating floods.

Global warming means that the occurrence of disasters caused by climatic anomalies can no longer be avoided. At present, meteorological agencies around the world can do little more than develop a general understanding of what will happen, they remain unable to accurately predict the severity and timing of events.

A strong earthquake does not necessarily cause more devastation than a weaker one, but damage does accumulate. The higher frequency of weather disasters and the regular rewriting of climate records make the long-term consequences of neglecting this particularly worrying

In this regard, the disaster brought by Typhoon Morakot last year was a painful lesson for the people of southern Taiwan.

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said after Typhoon Morakot that “Taiwan is an area where climate change induced disasters are common,” a realization that also inspired a noted documentary by Sisy Chen (陳文茜). The question is whether people in these areas should flee their homes or devise ways to make life in Taiwan more sustainable?

I have long suggested the establishment of a mechanism that will allow us to adapt to climate change and that we follow the examples of the UK and the US by passing a climate safety law while at the same time implementing projects to cut green house gas emissions, rather than leaving it all to the rhetoric of politicians. If the Taiwanese people want to continue living on this island, they have no choice but to adapt to unstoppable climate change.

As a professor, I teach a seminar called “Introduction to Global Change.” The last class in this course deals with human creativity in times of change, and how artists and entertainers deal with the current doomsday atmosphere by skipping over scientific thinking and creatively expressing personal experiences and insights, in the hope they will be able to encourage people to change their ways.

I can only hope that more scientists will engage in such creative work because only then can we ensure that the road toward a sustainable Taiwan is not blocked by irrelevant squabbles.

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